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The death of a friend.
My body is cold. Around me people suffer through the pain as they know they will never survive this pandemic. Bodies are crammed into the little tent they call a hospital, not much of one if you ask me but what does my opinion matter? I’m dead.
The year is 1918 and we are all victims to this horrible disease, no one can quite aptly name it yet for we don’t know what it is yet. The girl lying next to be has been here a lot longer than I have and she looks miserable. She keeps telling me that we will make it through this and when we get out of here we will find each other’s addresses and write letters. She’s become my only friend here in this dismal place of death.
Today is different though, her eyes are bloodshot from crying through the pain. She looks madly around her for a nurse and tries to call out but no words escape her thin rosy lips. She lets a tear escape her blue tinged eyes and she closes them hoping to block out the sound of screaming and pain. She coughs to clear the liquid that has been accumulating in her lungs.
As I watch her I see a subtle hint of color forming on her pale peach skin. Deep brown spots began forming under her skin like ingrown birthmarks. She hadn’t noticed them yet for she was struggling to breath but I reckon eventually she would notice them.
She screams out in pain and grips at her chest, a near by nurse comes over and holds her hand as she fights the discomfort forming in her chest. She sucks in a sharp breath and grits her teeth together hoping that it will help, it doesn’t. The nurse strokes her hand across the girl’s cheek as if to offer a hint of comfort but the girl thrashes so wildly she probably can’t even feel the nurse trying to help.
A violent cough strikes through the girl’s body and she goes into a fit. Pinkish froth spills from the corners of her lips as if she has just been bitten by a rabid dog. She spits out the froth with the only moisture she can find in her dry mouth. The nurse let go of her hand and called over a priest that was seated in the corner of the room waiting to bless anything that seemed to not be able to survive. Just yesterday that same priest was sitting at my bedside holding a cross over my body and chanting his ritualistic jabber.
He did the same to the girl next to me, he sat down in a chair by her bedside and held his metal cross over her body waving it and chanting religious jargon. She settled down upon hearing the kind words the priest was sinking into her disease ridden brain and he closed her eyes with his glove wrapped hands. He stood up and pressed the cross to her bare chest; she shivered at the cold touch and laid still enough to be mistaken for a piece of furniture.
All around us the same thing was happening to many different people, sometimes all at the same time. The months that I had been in here I had seen many people give up living and go on with their lives. I myself was holding on for as long as possible. I didn’t want to end my life. I am only 21 years old and my name is Clarissa Hudson. I live in the northern part of Italy with my parents and my younger siblings. When I realized I was starting to feel worse and worse my parents immediately sent me here, away from them. At the time I couldn’t realize why their actions were so important but now as I see all the people coming through these cloth walls every day I can’t help but to believe that my parents did the right thing by sending me away.
Right now I lay on a cot with my hands folded neatly over my chest. Breathing stopped long ago but my soul just won’t pass on. I watch around me as other people pass through and I sit here on the sidelines waiting for my moment. I know I’m missing something, something important.
After about 10 minutes of contemplating the doors to the tent fly open and they whisk in a new patient. She is a small woman of about 40 or so. Her face is spot ridden and she trembles with the chills. The earlier stages are the hardest stages of the disease. She looks in my direction and I catch her green eyes with my glazed over blue ones. She starts wailing; she is my mother. Anabell Hudson, my mother has just become the universe’s newest victim of this dreadful disease.
I watch as they cover the girl next to me and wheel her away to the mass morgue they have near the back of the tent. Her blonde ringlets show from under the white sheet. I feel a twinge of sadness for the family that will have a coffin sitting on their doorstep when they wake up in the morning to find out that their daughter has passed away.
They wheel the newest patient in right next to me and her eyes are full of tears. My mother cries out and tries to reach over and console me. She lays her cold fingers on my skin and feels the rubbery thickness and cries out even louder. The fits start as soon as the crying slows and she begins coughing wildly. Just like the girl next to me a pink froth ejects from her mouth and foams over the sides of her face and mats her brown hair to her face. She wipes it away with vigor and stares wildly at me. I see determination in her eyes and I can see the will to live. She believes that she will make it through this, good luck mom.
A nurse comes over to my bed and unlocks the restraints on the wheels and starts wheeling me away towards the back of the tent. She turns the cart too sharply and one of my hands falls off my chest. It dangles off the side of the cot and gently sweeps its self over the cold flesh of my mother’s hand that is dangling from her own death bed. Her eyes go wild and she cries out after the nurse to leave me be. She goes into a coughing fit again and a doctor comes over and starts checking her over while he has the chance.
I am whisked swiftly to the back of the tent where I am dumped on the floor with the rest of the bodies. Lying next to me again is the girl from earlier. Her eyes are also open and the green seeks compassion, her eyes scream out to me that she also hasn’t passed over and can’t yet. Another body is thrown next to us pushing my body closer to hers. My hand somehow finds hers and we intertwine fingers. At least I know that in death and pain I will always have someone who will help me push through the haze and find my way through.
Many people died in the year 1918 from the Pandemic Influenza. It preyed among the healthy and the young, daughters, mothers, fathers, sons. Anyone could have been a victim of this spiteful disease. Hospitals were full of bodies and were turning people away by the dozens for fear of overfilling. Everyday someone’s family or friend was dying and there was nothing humanity could do to help.